Towards the end of this summer we were lucky enough to be visited by some beautiful dainty swallowtail butterflies. Actually I’m not sure how many there were because I only ever saw one. When we first saw them we were not sure what they were called. We just knew that they were very pretty!
This was the first year that we had zinnias in the garden so maybe that is what attracted them – they seemed to love our zinnias! I haven’t got a good photo of the butterflies because they just didn’t sit still long enough. It’s not surprising though because apparently they’re like a hummingbird in that they feed while in motion!
Another thing that we quickly learnt about dainty swallowtail butterflies is that they lay their eggs on citrus trees. When we went and had a look at ours we found 5 dainty swallowtail butterfly caterpillars! They were happily munching away on one of our potted lemon trees!
Naturally I shared my find on Instagram and twitter! That prompted a discussion with another twitter user from Queensland who said that he brings the caterpillars inside to protect them from predators. Apparently they can be attacked by ants and even mice will eat them if they find them. I understand that they are especially vulnerable after they make their chrysalis (cocoon).
We want to have dainty swallowtail butterflies in our garden again next spring so I decided to bring the caterpillars inside. I set them up in a large storage tub minus the lid. I added a coil of wire mesh so that the caterpillars would have something to move around on. The wire was great as it gave me something to clip their food (citrus leaves) to using clothes pegs.
Every couple of days I have been adding fresh citrus leaves. I had some florist vials which keep the cuttings fresh for longer. The vials came with some orchids that were purchased a while back! You can also buy them through floristry supply stores. Without the vials I would have to add fresh leaves every day.
I have since brought four more caterpillars inside and they seem to be quite happy so far. In fact one of them is now in its chrysalis! I have put the whole set up outside now because I thought the warm house might speed up their progression to butterflies. As much as I want to see them transformed into butterflies I think that they should wait until spring!
I have put some holes in the lid of the container and then covered the holes with insect screen. Now they are able to experience normal outside temperatures while still being safe in their plastic container!
Links That Helped Me Learn About Swallowtail Butterflies
I have learned a lot from reading about dainty swallowtail butterflies. If you would like to know more about them here are some of the links that I found useful:
I also found these two great links at Joyful Butterfly that show how to raise swallowtail butterflies indoors and how to overwinter a chrysalis: